As you know, I have occasionally marked a significant date with a major event uniquely my own. Like September 11, 2001, when I learned that terrorism wears a lot of masks, including that of DMV Supervisor.
The Fourth of July is no different. Yes, for most Americans it is the anniversary of that day when Colonial Patriots sent King George the Somethingth a big ol’ psychic finger in the form of a very fancily worded document known as The Declaration of Independence.
(Little known fact: Thomas Jefferson originally called it 'The Neener-Neener Britain Butt Manifesto', which after a great deal of congressional deliberation and emotional speech making on C-Span, was finally pronounced “Freaking Stupid”. Jefferson’s ink well and little nippy bottle were confiscated until he agreed to change the name, which explains why all paintings of him dated after 1776 show him holding a tankard of Diet Coke and giving John Adams a wedgie.)
But for me, July 4, 1985 was memorable for a far more personal reason. That was the day when Fate took a long look around the cosmic plane and decided to hand my husband a healthy dose of karmic justice.
Considering that it’s usually me lined up in the cosmos’ cross hairs, it is particularly gratifying that this moment of “that’s what you get” settled a score for me that had been building for a week.
We had been married for three months, and were on a river trip through the Grand Canyon. For five adventure-filled days, we made our way down the Colorado River. This was July in Arizona, which meant that there were two temperature choices: 130 degrees on the boat, or 50 degrees in the water. At one point we passed through an area of sheer black cliffs, known locally as Brainbaker Canyon. I’m pretty sure I’d have a Ph.D by now if I hadn’t fried my noodle that day.
Every evening, we would camp on shore. While the rafting company crew prepared dinner, the rest of us pitched our tents, washed our hair, and generally tidied up after a long hot day on the water.
Oh, and we would…kinda…go potty.
Now the latrine facilities and the rules governing them were both pretty straightforward: Accommodations were made for taking care of…um…Number Two. But Number One was handled in the river. You just sorta casually waltzed out into the current, like maybe you always chose to cool off in water so frigid even your teeth turned blue, and then, before your essential parts began snapping off and floating away, you…you know…went.
I cannot begin to describe the amount of concentration this took. First, you had to completely override the natural instinct to not do what you were about to do in front of other people. Goodness, this was every adolescent’s worst nightmare: You’re in a large group of your peers, all laughing and being extremely cool, and suddenly you discover that you’re marking the landscape. And they can all SEE you!
The self-talk involved in just going into the water in the first place was worthy of a Pulitzer.
Then, as you stood in water that just minutes before had been a fairly ambitious glacier, you had to…well…relax enough to get things moving. This required settling into a nearly Zen-like trance: “Be one with the river. Let the river flow around you. Let it flow through you. Let it flow [insert appropriate preposition] of you. Aaaahh. That’s right. Yeeaaah…”
It was tough, let me tell you.
Well, as a naïve newlywed nitwit, each time I ventured into the river to get a little closer to nature, I made the tactical error of telling my husband my intentions.
So once I was well into the water, he would start hollering from the shore, “HEY!! WHATCHA DOING OUT THERE?? NEED ANY HELP?? YOU CAN’T SWIM, YOU KNOW!! JUST BE CAREFUL, OK??”
Which of course alerted everyone else in the group as to my location and obvious activities.
Evil, evil husband.
He thought he was sooooo funny. He’d be hooting as I got back to the tent (mortified and threatening grave bodily injury) chortling over his clever joke, which to his way of thinking just never got old.
For five long, distracted days I put up with this nonsense. Out to the river. “Encouraged” by my oh-so-helpful husband. Back to shore, breathing out threatenings. Chortling and knee-slapping from funny man.
So one night, I decided to go incognito. I grabbed a bottle of shampoo and announced that I was off to the river to wash my hair. He was still wrestling the tent and only half listening as I headed into the water.
Mwa. Ha. Ha.
I rinsed out the shampoo, and began the Lamaze breathing that made the rest of my river activities possible. Just as things started ‘flowing’, I was startled by a sudden shout and a huge splash just inches in front of me. Down stream, as it were.
My husband had been trying to spook me by sneaking up on me and then diving in while I was distracted. Another favorite trick. Really, he's frickin' Jerry Lewis. Get this guy a telethon.
Funny thing was, he came up out of the water coughing and sputtering. While I stood there in stunned amazement, he pulled himself together and said, “Wow! I got a mouthful of water that time!”
Hee hee! D’ja hear that??
Then, as if that weren’t poetic enough, he went on to observe, “Have you noticed there’s a warm patch right here? It’s cold everywhere else but warm in this little spot. Weird, huh?”
I was speechless. All I could do was fix him with a telepathic stare and feel the grin spread across my face as the realization of what had just happened slowly settled on him.
His eyes grew wide, he threw back his head and wailed, “NOOO!!! Tell me you weren’t…AAAUUGH!! cough cough ICK!! spit spit YUCK!! gag gag Why didn’t you SAY something?!”
Well, goodness, what was there left to say?
“Hey, baby, how about joining me out here for a little karmic comeuppance? Dive right in! The water’s fine.”
Yeah, it’s fine all right. Especially that warm spot…right…there.
(Originally published in 2009, but posted again because I'm pretty sure he hasn't learned his lesson yet.)